On Leeks

It’s official, I want leeks in my home at all times. Well, after I’m all done moving of course, but LEEKS ARE DELICIOUS! And if you haven’t had one before, try adding them in with whatever veggie dish you’re making! They have this really wonderful woody aroma to them, and a delightfully mild sweetness, unlike their very strong and pungent veggie friend, onion. For example, I found this really lovely recipe for asparagus that included leeks and pancetta (which I substituted for bacon because that was what I had, and frankly, I find it a little difficult to find pancetta around me) and let me tell you something, Frankie could SMELL it from the other end of the apartment and was shouting “THAT SMELLS GOOD! WHAT ARE YOU MAKING?” about every few minutes. Sometimes, being able to surprise your partner that vegetables, which are not his favorite things to eat, can actually be darn right delicious! Sadly, no photos, but I will DEFINITELY be making it again and included the link to the recipe below in case you don’t want to wait for my photographic evidence of utter tastiness!

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But I digress. As I’m working with leeks more and more, almost seeking them out in a way, I’m becoming more aware of how difficult it can be to cook. Too much and they become mushy and melt into whatever you’re cooking without adding much else since their flavor profile is milder than that of their close veggie friend onion. Though, naturally, if you’re making a soup, you want them to be soft so they blend easily, so in that case, cook away! But too little cooking leaves you with crunchy and fibrous mouthfuls of nothing. It’s only when you get them cooking in a little oil, or dare I say it, butter (which I think is the way to go because they soak up all that nuttiness) that the really aromatic sweetness comes out. You want your leeks to have a presence in whatever it is you’re cooking, rather than being masked, because they are delicate and beautiful, deserving a chance to shine in whatever dish you’re cooking.

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For example, take the asparagus I mentioned earlier! While asparagus was the main ingredient and star of that dish, with its own subtle note of sweetness amid its natural bright earthiness, the addition of the leek enhanced that sweet note to just the perfect amount. The leek complimented it, and still provided a slight tart nuttiness from their caramelization in butter to help them stand out amid the equally strong meatiness of the bacon! And all together, well, let’s just say the recipe is titled aptly!

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As for these fritters? Well, it’s safe to say that I have known for quite some time now that Smitten Kitchen is one of my top go to spots for things to make and try! Deb Perelman’s food is just elegantly simple, unfussy, but delicious, and always adaptable to taste, as I did with these fritters. I like to add a little heat to my veggie dishes if there seems to be a pull towards a single flavor note, which for this dish, since it’s JUST leeks, was going to be a pull towards that soft sweetness, so I added just a little more paprika than the recipe asked for to get a small spicy kick. Also, make sure you do dab your leeks dry after you rinse any remaining dirt away! This ensures that there won’t be too much moisture in your mixture, so your fritters stay in tact and fry perfectly once you mix up your batter!

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But look how tasty that looks?! And that’s another thing I love about her recipes. They’re easy to make. They don’t require a lot of time, making them ideal for weekday cooking, which for me, is becoming the kind of thing I’m gravitating towards the most. But here’s to the upcoming change in season, to a new home, and new meals in a new kitchen! Though, let me say it right now, there are two steaks in our current freezer just waiting to hit the coals of a new grill that may or may not make its way into our backyard in the coming weeks! BBQ and Bags anyone? — Cooking Maggie


Leek Fritters with Garlic & Lemon from smitten kitchen

Absurdly Addictive Asparagus from kaykay on Food52.com

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